Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Dublin (North Inner City) Development Authority Bill 2018: Second Stage [Private Members]
I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
Over two years ago, in response to gangland murders in Dublin's north inner city and at the request of the then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, Mr. Kieran Mulvey produced a report, Creating a Brighter Future, which contains an outline plan for the social and economic regeneration of Dublin's north-east inner city. One of my party colleagues, Mary Fitzpatrick, made a detailed contribution to the Mulvey report. Since its establishment, she has worked with and supported the Taoiseach's north inner city task force. I met Mr. Mulvey as part of his consultations during the period in question. I was in correspondence with the Department of the Taoiseach during the same period. In parallel, Ms Fitzpatrick has worked and is working directly with residents, employers and the North Inner City Community Coalition to address the root causes of dereliction, disadvantage and addiction and to champion the regeneration opportunities in Dublin's north inner city. This Bill results from the work I have done with Ms Fitzpatrick, residents, employers, artists and the North Inner City Community Coalition, whose members' presence in the Visitors Gallery I acknowledge. In introducing this Bill, I acknowledge and commend the work done by the Taoiseach's task force in the north inner city over the course of the past two years and I reaffirm the commitment on this side of the House thereto.
Everyone recognises, however, that the root causes of the problems that resulted in the gangland crime that erupted two years ago did not appear or emerge overnight and, as such, could never be solved overnight. Mr. Mulvey's report was, by its own definition, an outline plan of short-term initiatives. To address such systemic issues as housing, poverty, dereliction, addiction, mental health problems and economic development, we feel very strongly that a long-term strategic approach is needed to provide a more substantive response backed with statutory authority. For this reason, on behalf of the north inner city community, we are calling on the Government through this Bill to make a sustained and long-term commitment to addressing the challenges and to champion holistically the unique urban regeneration opportunities that exist in our capital's north inner city. I want to identify how this Bill will build on and enhance the work commenced by the task force. I also want to ask for the House's support for the establishment of a statutory north inner city development authority.
The geographical definition of Dublin's north inner city has been a matter of debate. The Taoiseach's task force defines it as a small compact area extending from Busáras and Connolly Station to Croke Park, bordering parts of Dorset Street and O'Connell Street on the west and extending to the edge of East Wall, comprising an area with a population of approximately 20,000. The city council, the North Inner City Community Coalition and our Bill define the north inner city as the geographical area that stretches from the walls of the Phoenix Park to the urban villages of Stoneybatter and Phibsborough, the markets, O'Connell Street, Ballybough, Drumcondra, North Strand and Seville Place and as far as North Wall and East Wall. The local electoral districts are listed in the Bill.
The disparity between the task force definition of the north inner city and what is otherwise universally accepted as the north inner city has unintended negative consequences. It creates local conflict because it excludes core parts of the north inner city, for example East Wall and everywhere west of O'Connell Street. In my early days as spokesperson on Dublin, I met groups that had not been included in the area delineated by the Taoiseach's initial task force. This means that struggling inner city community services are excluded from desperately needed task force support simply because they fall outside the defined area. One example comprises the community technical training centre and the adult and older people's services in Henrietta Street and the community services in Sean O'Casey community centre, East Wall. These are just two examples. This Bill would correct that inconsistency and ensure an all-inner-city inclusive approach that would address and support all the north inner city, not just a subsection.
The north inner city is an important and highly visible part of our capital. It is the first place most overseas visitors to our city encounter after landing at Dublin Airport. The north inner city is rich with history, culture and potential. The National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks, Arbour Hill Cemetery, the ancient village of Stoneybatter, the regenerated Smithfield Square, the fruit and vegetable markets, the Complex arts centre, the Four Courts, Georgian Mountjoy, Parnell Square, Henrietta Street, Moore Street, Henry Street, O'Connell Street, the General Post Office, the Gate and Abbey theatres, Busáras, Connolly Station, the Convention Centre Dublin, the 3Arena and Dublin Port are all located in this area. All these places are easily recognised, both nationally and internationally. The challenges associated with housing, poverty, dereliction and disadvantage in the north inner city are enormous, however.
The north inner city appears as an area of average to affluent economic advantage but it is made up of mixed communities of affluence and significant disadvantage that, blended, appear economically healthy. Economic disadvantage, where it occurs in the north inner city, is severe. It is often the result of poor health, poor housing, unemployment and a lack of education. Economic and social disadvantage is often experienced on a multi-generational basis. Child poverty, female poverty and housing poverty are acute for some. Poverty is obviously evident from the low level of home ownership. Seventy-seven percent of the population in this area live in rented accommodation. Fewer than 25% of people in Dublin's north inner city on their own home. The north inner city has the highest concentration of homelessness services in the city.
The most recent daft.ierents report again highlights the north inner city as one of the most expensive places in the country in which to rent, with the highest annual increase in residential rent charges.
There is zero delivery of affordable homes, available or being constructed, but there are acres of State-owned lands that have been zoned and serviced for housing in O'Devaney Gardens, Dominick Street and Seán MacDermott Street. The projects in these locations are progressing at a snail's pace despite being launched and championed as landmark proposals under the Government's Rebuilding Ireland plan. Hundreds of State-owned flats at Matt Talbot Court, St. Mary's Place, Dorset Street, Constitution Hill and other complexes are boarded up and should be redeveloped and made available as quality, affordable inner city homes. The north inner city development authority we are proposing would, if established, have the authority to drive and deliver such redevelopment at an accelerated pace.
Dereliction is a blight on the north inner city. Initiatives to address and reverse dereliction are not working and are taking too long. The Minister of State will know that more than one third of property on O'Connell Street - Dublin's main street - is unoccupied, underutilised or derelict. The North Circular Road, Dorset Street and Amiens Street, all main city routes, look forgotten, unloved and neglected. Similarly, the tortuously slow development by the State of the national monument site on Moore Street, the long promised city library in the old Coláiste Mhuire building on Parnell Square and the development of the Magdalen laundry site on Seán MacDermott Street, to name but a few, are proof that the approach being taken has not worked. The State should not tolerate or foster such dereliction. It is unreasonable to expect private interests to invest in an area where the State demonstrates little or no obvious commitment. The State should incentivise regeneration and redevelopment in this area and penalise dereliction.
A State-backed development authority would send a clear message to private interests that the State is interested in regenerating the area, and that would encourage investment. The State-backed development authorities for Temple Bar, the Docklands and Grangegorman attracted billions of euro in private investment. A State-backed development authority for Dublin's north inner city could do the same. The north inner city of Dublin is arguably the most socially and ethnically diverse part of our country, with more than 40% of the its population identifying as non-Irish. This diversity must be recognised and catered for in all social and economic development plans for the area.
My colleague, Deputy Curran, has more to say on this matter.
Since a gang war erupted a little over two years ago, the north inner city has unfortunately become the focus of Government attention for all the wrong reasons. I acknowledge that the former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, took a personal interest in the area and that this resulted in the Mulvey report and, to this day, increased Government expenditure in the north inner city. He should be commended on that.
This Bill would not be before us but for the persistence of our party colleague from the area, Ms Mary Fitzpatrick, who has advocated for this for a number of years. She is quite clear that there must be a longer-term vision if there is to be a meaningful role in terms of regeneration. It cannot be piecemeal. The development authority would lead a co-ordinated response to the regeneration of the north inner city over a longer period, probably over a decade. Support for the regeneration of the inner city cannot be switched on and off; consistent commitment is required over the medium term. Regeneration must empower the local community and ensure that State bodies and agencies engage fully and meaningfully with the community. The success of the development authority will not be judged by improvement and enhancement of the physical infrastructure alone but also by developing and empowering a confident local community. In the absence of the establishment of a north inner city development authority, Mary Fitzpatrick, Deputy Lahart and I are concerned that the commitment over a period of up to ten years cannot be guaranteed and that the programmes and processes we put in place will be piecemeal and will not be underpinned by buy-in from all the statutory agencies required and a multi-annual budget.
I will refer briefly to some of the main provisions in the Bill. Its objective is to contribute to the regeneration of Dublin's north inner city - the area was outlined by Deputy Lahart - over a timeframe of no more than ten years. The authority, on behalf of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and Dublin City Council, shall foster the social and economic regeneration of the north inner city, improvements in the physical environment and the implementation, as far as possible, of Mr. Kieran Mulvey's report. The authority will identify bodies, both statutory and otherwise, which may contribute to the regeneration of the area taking account of the strategies of relevant statutory and other bodies operating in the area. It will undertake the preparation of a strategy for regeneration of the area, drawing on State lands, other statutory bodies and investment programmes, and will be responsible for the promotion and implementation of that strategy. The business of the authority will be overseen by a board of directors appointed by the Minister. We are proposing to specify who will be on that board. It would include officials from the Departments of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Education and Skills, Justice and Equality, Housing, Planning and Local Government, Finance and Health, the CEO of Dublin City Council, members of An Garda Síochána and the HSE and members of the local community and business community. The authority will produce and publish an annual report.
I will not go into the further detail of the Bill. Those who are interested can read it. The composition of the board is quite important. We have often established boards and groups in the past but when we look at the record of engagement with the statutory agencies shortly after their establishment various agencies do not attend or commit in the way they are supposed to. The reason for this Bill is the lack of support that has been demonstrated to our disadvantaged communities over an extended period. The situation in the north inner city did not happen overnight. For many people who are living in the north inner city, disadvantage is intergenerational. The programmes that had been in place only partially worked and were insufficient. I will point out some of the deficiencies. By getting the people who are responsible in the various statutory bodies on board with a development authority for the area we can identify the deficiencies and we will have a chance of bringing forward a remedy and solution.
Consider the role of the Garda Síochána in the north inner city and across the disadvantaged areas in Dublin in recent years. While the national units have had significant levels of success, communities across Dublin all say that the community gardaí who interact with them are no longer on the streets in the same numbers. The same applies to divisional drug units. The national units have had significant seizures, but drug units at local level do not appear to be impacting in the way they had previously. People in communities across Dublin, including the north inner city, can identify where drug dealing is taking place.
The funding to the RAPID - revitalising areas by planning, investment and development - programme, which was to be made available to 31 of the most disadvantaged communities in the country, has been abandoned for years. It was reintroduced in recent times with the small funding figure of approximately €60,000 being provided per RAPID area. That is paying lip-service to the programme. The Government knows that. When there is a serious problem it is not €60,000 that is provided but the €5 million that the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, has indicated he is paying this year. That is the level of commitment and investment required. I am concerned that without a development authority the continuation of the multi-annual funding and the underpinning of the programme for the north inner city will not be as they should be.
I acknowledged the impact the former Taoiseach had because the funding flowed from what he did. However, we cannot have funding that is provided at the whim of a Minister or Taoiseach of the day. The community in the north inner city needs a sustained programme with multi-annual funding, and that requires a development authority. The Minister of State is as well aware as I am that one of the scourges in our most disadvantaged communities, including the north inner city as well as parts of the constituency Deputy Lahart and I represent, is drug abuse. It is a blight on all our communities.
For a number of years we had established drug and alcohol task forces. We had empowered them to work on programmes to deal with prevention and to help people who were in recovery. In recent years, while the funding bodies such as the Department of Health and the HSE from whom the task forces received their funding were allocated increases in funding, the drug and alcohol task forces were on the same funding they were on in 2014, which is less than the funding they were on in 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009. I understand the historic reasons and I am aware that there was a recession but as the funding bodies received increases in funding, the task forces did not. I set these issues out to show that if we do not have a combined programme for the north inner city in Dublin, if we do not put a programme in place to endure for a decade, if we are at the whim of programmes being switched on and off, and if we are at the whim of not knowing if funding is one-off or annual, then the objectives we have for Dublin's north inner city will not be addressed. This is the concern.
I understand that the Minister of State and the Government will not support the Bill. I ask him to think about it again for a moment. The is one of the most challenging areas in Dublin. We are trying to see it as an opportunity to be a model. Many of the programmes that are supported by Government would be incorporated into the activities of a national development authority. The difference is that there would be co-ordination. Currently the money is being spent in the north inner city of Dublin programme by programme. It is what the local authority wants or what a Department wants. We need somebody to oversee it. We are open to amendments to the Bill, but I have no doubt that the authority as proposed in the Bill can be the co-ordinating body.
We have known there is a problem for two years and there has been no response. Two years ago, Mary Fitzpatrick clearly set out that the response needed to be co-ordinated. We support her in that. The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the co-ordinated response on the type of investment and support over the next decade. It is not just about financial support; it is also about the type of meaningful buy-in from the statutory agencies. They should attend meetings and provide on the ground they are supposed to do. This can only be achieved through a national development authority. This is about much more than regeneration of houses or the refurbishment and enhancement of the physical environment. It is about empowering a local community and giving them the confidence to look after themselves, having come through some very difficult times.
I urge the Minister of State to reconsider his position and support the Bill, to allow it to advance and to use the north inner city of Dublin as a pilot case that can be shown to work in disadvantaged communities throughout the State.
I thank Deputy Lahart for providing this opportunity for the House to focus its attention on Dublin’s north inner city. I also thank Deputy Curran for his contribution. It is worth bringing this into focus and to review where we have been over the past two years. The issue was known of well before two years ago. We were clear when we sat down with Mr. Kieran Mulvey to make these plans that we are dealing with many years of neglect. It was not just something that happened two years ago. We were also conscious that it would not be addressed or fixed, nor would it be able to give everyone all the opportunities they need, in one or two years. A long-term, sustained investment, kicked off with a focus and with an action-led development, is required. We are conscious of that, as was Kieran Mulvey when he met the various residents and groups. The Taoiseach and the Ministers in the different Departments that were involved knew we were signing up to a long-term commitment. Everyone came to the table with long-term ambition. It was not to be just a quick dip in and dip out. Let us be very clear about that. Thankfully, the stakeholders and Departments and agencies are committed to that in the long term. The focus is being driven by the Taoiseach's office and the commitment was there from the start. I was there from the start, involved in the meetings and with Kieran Mulvey. It is important that we get that recognition.
As Mr. Mulvey noted in his report, Dublin’s North East Inner City - Creating a Brighter Future, the area is not just a physical entity; it is a vibrant community steeped in history and with a wealth of literary connections to Joyce, O’Casey and Behan. The north east inner city is also an area facing many challenges that go back many years. Census data highlight the existence of significant clusters of high deprivation within the area. At the extreme end, there are small areas within the north east inner city containing 80% lone parent households, where up to half of the population have attained primary education only and less than 5% with third level education.
The Mulvey report notes that unemployment levels for males in these areas were double and triple the national average including high dependency on the State for housing at more than 90% in some cases. The misuse of legal and illegal substances poses a daily challenge for young people and adults in the area. Alcohol abuse results in major problems for young people causing them to miss days from school and training centres regularly. Many residents were concerned at the exposure of young children to this behaviour because they can see it daily on the streets in some parts of the area. It was stressed by some community groups that even outside their own community buildings, there is undesirable activity going on. All of this contrasts starkly with the existence of areas of strong business and enterprise, along with affluent residential development.
It is appropriate that we are discussing the north east inner city today, and that we acknowledge the challenges but also the huge potential of the area, including that of its residents, who are parents, senior citizens, students, workers and so on whose priority is to have a safe and vibrant community in which to live and the opportunity to improve their lives and those of their children. During those early meetings and discussions much of the focus was on the opportunity and giving people what they needed to be able to avail of those opportunities. We had a very clear discussion on this. It was not just about providing the opportunities; it was also about helping some of the residents who are not in a position to avail of opportunities to be in a better position to take on board the opportunities and taken them forward. This is about investment in people, in skills and in professional people to work with community groups. It is not just the development of infrastructure.
I again thank Deputy Lahart for bringing the issues of Dublin's north east inner city to the fore. While well-intentioned, however, his Bill does not offer the appropriate vehicle to bring the kind of solutions required in the area and, consequently, I must ask the House to reject it. Deputies may recall that in July 2016, following a spate of gangland murders, the then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Paschal Donohoe and others requested Mr. Kieran Mulvey to report on the challenges facing the communities of north east inner city Dublin, and to recommend specific measures that would support the long-term economic and social regeneration of the area. I stress that it was a long-term commitment. Deputy Kenny was clear that he wanted a long-term commitment and that it was not just a quick fix where we would arrive in with a bit of fanfare and disappear again. The then Taoiseach visited the residents three or four times and he stressed that the Government was stepping up to put in place long-term plans. As Deputy Curran mentioned, we recognise that there had been cutbacks in specific projects and funding for a number of years prior to this. Nobody wanted that. We had to make sure that when we put the money and services back in, that would be done in a reformed and structured way to make a difference and to build on what had happened in the past. We recognised that cuts had happened for all the different reasons before that.
In drafting his report, Mr. Mulvey on behalf of the Government engaged extensively with the local community, including community groups, residents and business interests, as well as with Departments and statutory service providers. Mr. Mulvey's report, which was published in February 2017, reflected the insights he gained from this engagement. He emphasised on many occasions how valuable those insights and engagement were. He commended all the groups, people and residents for giving their time and commitment, and for trusting him with the work he had to do. There had been an issue in trying to build up trust in some cases. Mr. Mulvey was conscious of this as he made his report ready for the Government.
Without any disrespect to the intention of the Bill, the actions and structures outlined in the Mulvey report accurately reflect the requirements and desires of the community for their social and economic regeneration. Mr. Mulvey spent many months meeting people, as did many of the contributors to the debate who may also live in the area. On behalf of the Government and the Departments, Mr. Mulvey spent time with the residents trying to engage and see exactly what was needed and wanted. He put a shape to that engagement, which was the aim of the project in the first place.
Work is well advanced in implementing the recommendations of the Mulvey report under the oversight of the Department of An Taoiseach. While the Bill specifically seeks the implementation of the recommendations of the 2017 Mulvey report, it should be noted that the report did not recommend the establishment of a statutory authority with prescribed functions. Rather, the introductory recommendation of the report was that an independent executive chair would be appointed and that a team would be put in place to take forward the subsequent recommendations of the report.
An implementation board was established in June 2017 led by an independent chair, Mr. Michael Stone, who was appointed by An Taoiseach. The implementation board includes representatives of An Garda Síochána, Dublin City Council, the Health Service Executive, the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs, Education and Skills, Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Health and the Taoiseach and the local community, including an employer and business representative.
A programme office, with a multidisciplinary team, has also been established. This office, which is headed by the independent chair, is based in the Dublin City Council central area headquarters on Seán MacDermott Street in the heart of the north east inner city.
The programme office oversees a range of communication and community engagement initiatives as well as funding and administration across a number of priority regeneration themes. Given that high level participation from key State bodies is already in place, it is considered that the establishment of a new statutory agency as envisioned by the Bill before us might undermine or even compete with the structures that are already in place and operating effectively in this regard. We were very clear from the start that we did not want that competition. The aim was to bring everybody together. We had the one agenda here and the one driver and it was important that everyone knew who was driving this from the start.
Deputy Lahart’s Bill would see the establishment of a new statutory body which in essence would be a development agency. While the section 4 of the Bill sets out some general intentions for the activity of the new agency, section 5 sets out the primary statutory functions of the proposed authority, including the preparation of detailed proposals and plans for development, redevelopment, renewal or conservation of land, the management of State-owned land for its possible future development, the disposal of State-owned land on completion of its development, etc. This heavy focus on physical redevelopment, land management and land disposal is not necessarily what was sought by the local community and was not the emphasis of the Mulvey report.
The Mulvey report is clear that the primary issues faced in the north-east inner city are social and economic in nature, including policing and crime prevention, tackling crime and drugs, and maximising educational and training opportunities. I emphasise that they should be training opportunities with job potential. There are many young people out there who want new skills development opportunities that could lead on to jobs. Other issues are those of creating local employment opportunities and creating an integrated system of social services. It was more about an investment in people and services. While we know regeneration is required as part of that, we have established the Land Development Agency to work on behalf of the Government with a regeneration role along with local authorities to drive that agenda. We do not need another agency set up alongside that. We need to continue to focus our efforts and resources on addressing these issues within the structures currently in place to ensure the successful community regeneration of this area of our capital city.
I thank Deputy Lahart for again bringing to the attention of the House the issues faced by these communities. While I might not agree with the Bill, I agree with having an ongoing conversation about and a focus on what we are trying to do here. This debate gives us a chance to do that. The Government is committed to the regeneration of this area for the benefit of its residents and visitors. Progress is being made and is already evident in the area. It is vital that there are no more false dawns for this community. Going back to the various meetings we had in the communities, the former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, was very clear that he was not there to give false hope or false dawns. He was there to put in place long-term plans with short-term and medium-term gains but with a long-term ambition.
Community engagement and support is vital for the regeneration effort to succeed and the structures that have been put in place will continue to have this at their core. There is no lack of Government commitment when it comes to the regeneration of the north-east inner city. The task force led by the Department of An Taoiseach and the senior officials group chaired by the Secretary General of the Department maintain an ongoing oversight role. Dublin City Council has committed all the necessary resources for the project office. Other key Government bodies are all participating in the implementation board and are assigning resources, including ring-fenced funding as necessary. While I commend Deputy Lahart, it is important to point out the shortcomings of this Bill. The proposed development authority is not what was sought and is not what is required to deliver for the community.
I thank Deputy Lahart for introducing the legislation. It recognises the decades of social and economic neglect the north inner city of Dublin has endured. Fianna Fáil is no doubt acutely aware of successive Governments' failure to deliver the political and policy decisions necessary to tackle the embedded inequalities in this part of our city. The Deputy’s party leader was a Cabinet member for 20 consecutive years, yet did nothing to address the social and economic challenges of the inner city. In that time, no bright light was shone on the intergenerational poverty, unemployment and blockages to education experienced daily. There was no dogged ongoing commitment to radically changing the outcomes for children and their families. Let us imagine the positive, life-changing interventions that could have been delivered for this community over the course of two decades. The Bill is a welcome albeit belated recognition by the Deputy of his party’s historic failure to grip the declining fortunes of the inner city and hopefully it signals a new and long-term commitment to transforming the lives of those who live there.
There are a number of current projects and challenges within the inner city that need urgent attention. The regeneration of O'Devaney Gardens needs to be completed without any further delays. We have yet to receive a completion date for the Croke Villas project. The Department of Justice and Equality and Dublin City Council have failed to deliver on their commitment to develop an appropriate memorial at the Seán McDermott Street site to the women who survived the Magdalen laundries. This particular failure is truly astounding and gives an insight into the sometimes shallow response by the State when acknowledging the horrific treatment meted out to our most vulnerable women and children, very many of whom came from Dublin's north inner city. Intergenerational unemployment has not been grappled, nor have the systematic flexible approaches and supports required to redirect early school leavers to education and training. While progress has been made at a community policing level, the impact of criminal feuds and low-level crime in the inner city continues to have a deep and detrimental effect on peoples' sense of security and happiness. We regularly hear from individuals and families who simply do not feel safe in their homes, in their blocks of flats or on their streets.
There is a lack of ambition and vision at Government and council management level for the inner city and its long-term success. For me, the refusal of the Government to engage with Dublin City Council to purchase Aldborough House typifies this failure. Visitors to any modern city will see how sites like Aldborough House and Seán McDermott Street’s former Magdalen laundry can be creatively reimagined, often as self-financing cultural and historical sites enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Why must government at every level and the officials always seek to limit the aspirations for areas like the inner city? Why is an approach of tinkering around the edges always favoured above deep, transformative change? Why have they failed to work together to deliver the radical changes the community has cried out for?
If an authority is to be established, it must never become yet another underperforming quango that fails to deliver for the long term. That is my concern. Sinn Féin will enable the passage of this legislation to the next Stage. However, we do this on the basis that if it is to progress through the House we will submit very significant changes and amendments. As it stands, it is merely a superficial nod to what needs to be done in the inner city, with all due respect. The Bill provides that the authority will deliver social and economic regeneration, and improvements in areas like the physical environment. It is intended that the authority will prepare a strategy for the regeneration of the area and promote investment by statutory bodies. The spirit of these commitments is welcome, although arguably we should not need a new quango to achieve on these standard deliverables if there were a collective political will to do so.
Section 5 of the Bill provides for enabling the authority to dispose of land that is in the ownership of the State on completion of its development, redevelopment, renewal or conservation. This is a significant cause of concern and a provision that we could not accept should the Bill progress through the Oireachtas. As the Deputy knows, this Bill cannot confer such a right on the authority. Even if the Bill could bypass existing legislation that governs the disposal of public land, I would be surprised if his Dublin City Council colleagues would support the Deputy's intention to strip them of their democratic powers in this regard.
This concern is compounded by the Bill’s sidelining of community representation on the authority’s board. This is what puzzles me most. The Bill proposes having six Government officials, three State agency representatives, three business representatives and just three persons from the North Inner City Community Coalition. A glaring omission is the lack of an official from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Anyone who knows Dublin's north inner city will know those are critical players to have around the table.
As the Deputy is no doubt aware, community leaders have called for the proposed authority to have an independent chair and yet the legislation does not provide for this. The board does not include local elected representatives or experts in the various fields necessary to deliver the transformative public policy needed to address the community’s imbedded challenges. It is worth noting that all of the officials the legislation provides for are already working within the implementation group of the north-east inner city programme.
The legislation also commits to implement the recommendations of Kieran Mulvey’s Dublin North East Inner City report. I am unsure why the Deputy would seek to duplicate this same work which is ongoing.
I am also concerned that the Bill’s limited provisions mirror the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act, which ended in tears. Given the many failures and shortcomings associated with that project, surely any similar project should reflect the lessons learned from the past mistakes made by the Deputy’s party.
I will work with any and all political representatives and State officials to deliver social and economic regeneration and improvements in the physical environment of Dublin's north inner city. However, my ambition for this community is much greater than that outlined in the Bill. As a Deputy honoured to be elected to represent the constituency, I understand that transformative change is required to ensure that we are the last generation of Deputies to raise the deeply sad and entirely avoidable social and economic inequalities that are written deep into the fabric of Dublin's north inner city.
We must radically decrease the number of early school leavers and address poverty, which is at the root of all of this. Fluidity and flexibility are required in the delivery of all services, in particular health care and the supports necessary to extract people from the grip of drug addiction. The State must support lone parents in their efforts to improve their lot through education, retraining and employment.
Delivery of social and affordable housing to include cost-rental homes must be ramped up. So too must the quality of the homes within existing stock and future developments. The Deputy knows as well as I do that too many public and private tenants are living in homes riddled with damp and mould. They are tenement buildings in 2018. Flats are so small that children have no kitchen table on which to do their homework. This is an abiding theme of mine. It might sound odd on first hearing. These are homes with no kitchen table at which to do homework, have a meal at or have a gathering of the family. What is that all about in 2018? Teenagers and their parents have no privacy. Adult children are sharing bedrooms with their Mam. Homeless families spend months and sometimes years in emergency accommodation.
We must also demand the development of cultural, creative and historic spaces as a staple of any future development projects. Officialdom needs to commit to an indepth and meaningful consultation with the community in all its parts to develop a long-term vision for Dublin's north inner city. That needs to be more than just regeneration packages. Regeneration is an important component, but only a single component of the objective to build a safe, sustainable, vibrant and hopeful community in Dublin's north inner city.
The deliverables from any authority need to be properly resourced. If not, then all of this is just optics. It means real investment in infrastructure, supports and people. It means a real programme to eradicate poverty. If these commitments are not hardwired into the legislation, this will end up being yet another meaningless Bill, delivered by a political party that felt it needed to engage in empty gesture politics in respect of the people I represent in Dublin's north inner city. We can do better than that.
I believe James Connolly put it best and I say this on behalf of my constituents in Dublin's north inner city:
For our demands most moderate are,
We only want the earth.
Crumbs from the table, however well intentioned, however polished the legislative language, are simply not enough. Dublin's inner city needs investment. We need decent housing, decent education, flexibility in how we deliver our services, belief and hope in our people.
We will give the legislation a fair wind and will not block it. However, I am not convinced this is the panacea and I have pointed out some of its design flaws. If political leadership in this Chamber believes that people in Dublin's north inner city, their advocates and community leaders will be appeased or satisfied by gesture politics and continuing sweet rhetoric, they are wrong. We want results. We want decent homes, decent work and a decent chance. That means the Government needs to be prepared not to invest through a quango, but to invest directly in all those things. That is the challenge for all of us.
The Labour Party will support the legislation, but we have many reservations about elements of it. We need a discussion on what is happening in Dublin's north inner city.
The first principle of the legislation is that it needs to define the area. I know the Bill is very much inspired by the Mulvey report, but the area identified in the Bill is roughly two and a half times the area covered by the Mulvey report. That means the same amount of money would need to be spread over more than twice the area. That aspect of the Bill needs to be addressed. The Mulvey report area covers the north-east inner part of the city and even there some areas are not included, whereas, based on my reading, the area defined in the Bill goes into lower Phibsborough, the Phoenix Park and the north-west inner part of the city, including areas such as Oxmantown Road, Stoneybatter and Manor Street. Some work needs to be done on that.
I know Fianna Fáil cannot do this because the Government would block the Bill, but we need an indication of the proposed funding.
On the geographic area we are discussing, I point out that the north-west inner part of the city has had one of the biggest regeneration programmes under way for a long period of time. I refer to the Grangegorman Development Authority and the development of the Dublin Institute of Technology, DIT.
The authority has been quite successful in incorporating local community activities and recognition into its schedule of activities. It is an existing authority which has been in place for the best part of a decade. If the people who drafted up the Bill were to visit the Grangegorman campus, I am sure they would be given a lot of food for thought. There is a great deal of development going on in terms of student building, perhaps too much. That also needs to be considered because there is a definite need for new social units - either apartments or houses - in the north inner city. There are many examples as one goes down towards the quays of very successful social housing which was built in the 1990s and earlier and which is extremely successful and desirable. There are good models of success within the area to which I refer but there are also places where there is much dereliction. A couple of these have been mentioned. I refer, for example, to Aldborough House, one of our most important Georgian buildings, which is now a wreck. In the context of regeneration, pride of place in the Grangegorman area goes to Stoneybatter, where our former colleague, Joe Costello, has been particularly involved with the local community in putting on a series of events.
The proposed development authority is Fianna Fáil's suggestion of a model for areas that have been left behind. I am delighted that there has been an immense recovery in employment. What is equally clear - the Government has turned a deaf ear to it - is that because near full employment has returned in many places, there are now stand-out areas and groups that are being left behind. Given that there is a special focus in this Bill, the approach is probably worth examining as a template for people and areas that have been left behind right. On the southside of Dublin's inner city, in the area served by a colleague of mine, Councillor Rebecca Moynihan, one just has to drive up the hill to see that it is full of derelict sites, some of which local people have tried - with some success - to turn into gardens and green areas. I am conscious that while the Bill refers to the north-east inner city, or perhaps the whole of the north inner city, there are lots of areas in the city that need support to have more recovery and employment, education, training and apprenticeship opportunities for young people, and the development of community and cultural activity. That is really important.
Where the Bill refers to the people who may serve on the development authority, there is no mention of either the Department of Education and Skills or Tusla. The latter are both really important in the context of the north inner city. Belvedere College is located in one part of the north inner city. On the other side, children are leaving school early. They are not being helped to go on further. The Bill needs to deal with education and opportunity issues very clearly. I say this as former Minister for Social Protection. At this point, the model of community employment needs to be revamped. We need to look at something like the jobs initiative that would give guaranteed employment for ten years or more. I introduced a provision that allowed people on community employment, CE, schemes who reached the age of 62 to continue until 66. That has been really popular right around the country. With a bit of imagination, a Bill such as this could be used to rethink where we go with CE schemes in terms of key employment and community activity positions being made available for communities in Dublin and elsewhere that have been left behind.
The Minister of State might be able to confirm that the Taoiseach will turn up in Dominick Street next week - perhaps in the company of the Minister of State - to again turn the sod on the derelict site. The site at the bottom of Dominick Street, which is one of the locations covered by the Bill, is very large. Why is the sod going to be turned again? I have lost count of the number of Ministers and people in authority who have turned the sod at this site, which remains derelict. Is what is proposed just a twinkle in somebody's eye or is it actually going to happen? We had the spectacle not too long ago of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, the Taoiseach and perhaps the Lord Mayor standing on their own in the middle of O'Devaney Gardens with a few small signs that the building of 60 houses was about to commence. Those houses would be very welcome but it should be borne in mind that, like Dominick Street, the site in question has been lying derelict for over 12 years.
There is another issue about which I wish to ask the Minister of State. The part of the north inner city we are discussing contains a huge number of people who have immigrated from countries right around the world. It is also the home of Pavee Point - which is located in Mountjoy Square - the home of the Traveller movement in Ireland. We need to think more widely. The area is also the home of the Abbey Theatre and the Gate Theatre. The cultural development and growth of the area is really important to how well it does in the future particularly for young people. The area needs community police. One would travel far in Dublin these days to see a community policeman or policewoman walking around a locality.
I welcome this discussion in respect of the proposed Dublin north inner city development authority. Dublin's inner city has been marginalised by inequality and the consequences of drug addiction. It should not be defined by those things because it is a very decent community to live and work in. What has happened there is the result of Government policies over the decades.
Most people are in favour of regeneration but what kind of regeneration are we seeking? Regeneration of areas has not always been good. In some cases, it has been quite bad. For example, the Dublin docklands have been completely gentrified. People whose families have lived there for generations cannot afford to rent or buy apartments or houses in the area. This is happening not only in Dublin but also in other communities across Europe. People whose families have lived in areas for generations have been pushed out by high finance in order to make way for gentrification through the building of apartment and office blocks. That is not what regeneration is about. If regeneration is about a social dividend for the people who live in an area, then those responsible for the regeneration of the docklands got it dramatically wrong. Urban renewal schemes enjoyed success in the context of specific areas being physically regenerated but evidence shows that they fail dramatically to address the socioeconomic difficulties of working class communities across the State. Any regeneration process must be community-led, not developer-led. I will refer again to the docklands where the regeneration was developer-led. There have been some good regenerations for aesthetic and livelihood reasons but in terms of poverty and inequality it has been quite a failure.
The Bill proposes that there be three places on the authority for community representatives. This is an imbalance that has to be addressed. It is proposed that there will be 15 members on the proposed authority. If there are only three members to represent the community, there will be a major imbalance. There has to be a balance in terms of the people from the community the proposed authority is supposed to benefit being represented.
That would be good. We must learn the lessons from the past and present that regeneration can be good but it can also be an extreme failure, as has panned out in the docklands. We welcome the discussion over the next couple of days.
I went on an interesting walk on Sunday. I would not say it was an historical walk but rather quite current. I walked around the Dublin docklands area, looking at the development and destruction, as I define it, of what was a vibrant populated area that gave employment to a local community and where local inner-city people grew up and lived. One of the most shocking things I saw was "the Berlin wall", as it is colloquially known, which is an old wall behind Amiens Street that divides the people of Sheriff Street from those who live in these €350,000-plus apartments. I was given a list of what it costs to rent there and it is astronomical. It costs more than €3,500 a month for a three-bedroom property and €2,800 a month for a two-bedroom property. The wall reminded me of the peace wall in Ardoyne that divides the loyalist side of the community from the republican side. On top of the wall in the docklands, there is a wire net, probably the length of the panes of glasses above us in the Gallery, that prevents people from the Sheriff Street side flinging objects over the wall at the people on the posh side. It is a statement of the class divide that has been created, maintained and stabilised in what used to be the hardworking local community that lived and worked by the docks.
The Bill reminds me somewhat of Groundhog Day or the popular definition of insanity, where one tries to do something again in the very same way while expecting a different result. It is a Fianna Fáil solution to a Fianna Fáil problem because it was the party that established the original Dublin Docklands Development Authority, DDDA, and allowed hectares of public land be sold off cheaply to developers like Johnny Ronan, who is a contributor to Fianna Fáil's coffers, and others, whom we bailed out through the National Asset Management Agency over the exorbitant loans and expenditure that were given to them to plough into the area. Even though this is dressed up as being about renewal, economic and social regeneration and improvements in the physical environment, it is actually repeating the development-led possibilities in areas where, as there is a bit of public land, the developers can go for it.
Only a small community gain results from those developments around the docks. Where a gain exists, it was hard fought for by the local communities, not least women who occupied spaces to say they wanted social housing to be put there instead. It is interesting to see it at first hand because one might pass through it on the Luas and think there are many modern flats but, in fact, there is a legacy and history of bad planning and one-sided economic development that completely ignored the local community.
I listen to the former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, on the radio quite frequently because of Brexit. He was a Deputy in the area and the leader of the Fianna Fáil party at the time that it established the DDDA in 1997. All the local community got from that, however, was 390 social housing units out of a predicted 2,200 units, which was a real disaster for the local community. Furthermore, the International Financial Services Centre, IFSC, which was supposed to be the creator of jobs for the area, employs hardly anybody from the area. Of the tens of thousands of companies that are located there, many of them are just brass-plated companies which nobody works for but which are located there to avail of our low corporation tax and so on.
The legislation before us also reminds me of what is happening to an area where I used to live, namely, the Liberties, which is close to my heart. It is a terrible travesty to see the oldest, most historic and once vibrant community with many marketplaces, such as the Iveagh Market, being destroyed by developer-led policies that are being repeated. There are apartotels and student accommodation coming out of our ears, which uproots local communities who cannot afford to continue to live in the area and who are being swallowed up by all this development. While Dublin's inner city has seen a rush of planning applications and fast-tracking of planning systems, it has been passed by by elected representatives and any meaningful engagement by the local communities, which is a real shame. The sole interest is profit and the needs of the local community and the environment for the vibrancy and existence of our city are ignored. What Fianna Fáíl proposes will become a repeat of the past because of its connection with developers and builders. This will be a developer-led policy rather than a community-led policy. Unless there is development around the city that is about the people first, we will destroy what was once a beautiful and vibrant city, which is the direction in which Dublin is heading. I will reject this plan because it is not what is needed, especially in a part of the city that has suffered tremendous vandalism by the wealthy.
I find a bittersweet irony in what is being debated when I think back to 1982 and what was agreed between my predecessor, the late Deputy Tony Gregory, and the late Taoiseach, Charles Haughey. It is in that context that I look at what is proposed today. They agreed "the Gregory deal", although Tony always disliked the word "deal" and for him it was a programme. He was able to negotiate a programme because he was in the enviable position of holding the balance of power and his vote would decide who the next Taoiseach, and consequently the next Government, would be. The area he represented, which is part of the Bill, had been under-represented, misrepresented or not represented at all until then. It took the independent voice of Tony Gregory, with the community support he had, to negotiate a programme he hoped would make a real difference to issues such as housing, unemployment, education and health that remain with us today.
His proposal for housing was a major investment in the construction industry with specific targets in house building and an immediate commencement of 400 units. The programme would provide for additional craftsmen to work with Dublin City Council and a special fund to acquire land for long-term housing purposes. There would be a tax on derelict sites, office development, banks and financial institutions on development land which would contribute to the funding required. In the health sector, it showed that it was not a parochial document because it proposed free medical cards for all social welfare pensioners, action for Travellers, and regular rigorous inspections of institutions caring for children, the elderly and those with a disability. In education, it would provide for better teacher-pupil ratios, psychological services, home-school liaison officers, measures for the transition from school to work and youth projects.
It also contained a proposal for an inner-city development authority, which is significant in today's context. It would have its own fund, its own authority and specific areas with which to deal. The initial budget envisaged in 1982 was in excess of IR£2 million. The chairperson was to have a background in public affairs or business, would have been nominated by Tony and would have had the power to nominate five other members. There would be representatives from various public bodies, some of which no longer exist, representing industry, labour, finance, environment, the Industrial Development Authority and An Chomhairle Oiliúna, as well as others who had special knowledge of the north inner city.
So much of the programme was negotiated by Tony, his brother Noel, Mick Rafferty and Fergus McCabe. It had a transformative potential and one can imagine the difference it would have made if it had had a significant lifespan. The work began and, eventually, the Larkin Community College was established, but six months later the Haughey Government was voted out of office. What followed was indifference and neglect from successive Governments, creating an environment in which the drug trade flourished, which devastated communities and tore families apart. The schools, youth projects and drug projects persevered, however, and regrettably in the times of economic distress and recession they bore the brunt with the massive cuts they faced. I do not know why communities like the north inner city suffer disproportionately in a recession but that was the result of the decisions made by the political parties here. The statistics and data are skewed by the presence of the IFSC, but the statistics for the area itself suggest high numbers of unemployed people and lone parents.
While there have been improvements in accession rates to third level education, they are still far below the national average. There is serious overcrowding in housing and it is inappropriate. Then there is addiction, open drug dealing, intimidation and drug debt which all lead to violence and murders. When I read this Bill, therefore, I must ask what difference it will make to the lives of those who live in the north inner city.
There is another context in which to consider the Bill, namely the programme implementation board, PIB, that was initiated by the Government following the violence. Under the chairmanship of Michael Stone, it comprises senior representatives from Departments and the local community. The link between the 1982 Gregory deal and the PIB is Fergus McCabe who is in the Visitors' Gallery this evening. One possibility for the Bill is that the more formal structure it proposes could have a better chance of delivering what is necessary to bring about the transformation that the Gregory deal would have brought had successive Governments supported it and not abandoned the communities. Unfortunately, there was no interest in doing that until the outbreak of violence and the murders happened. I criticise the lack of elements of a social programme and there is no recognition of the drugs context out of which everything came. There is also the possibility that it might become merely another development company with an SDZ aspect, which would facilitate inappropriate fast-track planning, much of which has not benefitted residents to date. There is also a danger of it becoming a bureaucratic quango that will make no difference but will create more problems. There have been enough examples of this in the past.
If the legislation progresses, the provisions that are required can be addressed on Committee Stage. The serving officers from the Department will have to be senior serving officers. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Tusla will have to be represented because we know the impact of what is happening on the young people, children and teenagers in the north inner city.
In parts of that area, 50% of the population comprises members of new communities. There is no reference to their integration or representation. Three people from the local community is too few. The North Inner City Community Coalition was mentioned but there must be a specific democratic process for their selection. Three quarters of whatever number is agreed should be designated for those living in the area for some time, as they know what is needed. The chairperson must also be independent. If successful, it must build on the PIB, and include its chairman, as it is involved in the issues.
Finally, what is happening in the north inner city is not happening on its own, so whatever emerges there can be used a blueprint for other areas of disadvantage.
I also wonder where the Bill is coming from. I initially wondered if it was about promoting Mary Fitzpatrick or was it another version of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, DDDA, or had Fianna Fáil experience a conversion on their road from Damascus.
The authority's main function is the regeneration of the local area and the implementation the recommendations of the Mulvey report. Another function referred to in the Bill is the management of land that is in the ownership of the State which happens to be located in the area. It smacks of the Land Development Agency. Sadly the horse has bolted on this as a State authority, NAMA, owned the majority of development land in the area. NAMA held an interest in 75% of the 22 ha. located in the docklands, which amounted to 15 sites, the majority of which has been developed for commercial purposes or unaffordable apartments. It now appears that the residential building on these sites will not even benefit the local community as Dublin City Council has decided not to seek the 10% social housing allocation it is entitled to in such developments. NAMA officials boast that the agency's social dividend will come from the €3.5 billion that they will receive from the loans that they bought from the State, but they fail to mention that they have lost approximately €20 billion as a result of their management and behaviour.
This looks so like the DDDA that it is rather scary. I will give an example of what was going on there. There was a development on Castleforbes Road where the council did not want apartments on the ground level. The DDDA overruled the council, because it was allowed and did not have to abide by the city rules. However, it turned out that Castleforbes Road was in a flood area and they were not allowed to put the apartments there. To this day, the ground floor remains vacant. It is scary what can happen. If the city council is not fit for purpose, namely to manage the area properly, we should ask why that is. If it not fit for purpose, why do we not fix it?
I refer to the DDDA's involvement in the Glass Bottle site. There was a partnership between the State and private sector, but only one side lost when it went belly up, and that was the State. It is absolute madness.
It would be great if this area was properly designed but this can be done through the public authority, if we fix its problems and make it fit for purpose so things can be done properly.
I have heard no mention of creating indigenous industry or work in the area or anything about creating apprenticeships or getting the local kids involved in projects. I heard nothing about the provision of affordable housing there or a fair share of social housing that would meet the needs of the community, nor do I see it on the agenda.
I commend Deputy John Lahart, whose relations are all from Tipperary and who are good people, who has been instrumental in bringing this Bill forward. I am sure that it is an honest effort by the Deputy and others to do something with this part of Dublin. I listened with interest to the two previous speakers, particularly Deputy O’Sullivan who replaced the late Deputy Tony Gregory who was instrumental in that deal. I remember it well. I was involved in the Soldiers of Destiny at that time. It is a pity to think that the Gregory deal ended after that election and that everything was thrown to the wolves or lions and left there.
The Bill seeks to make provision for the regeneration of the area of Dublin’s north inner city, although I must admit that I am not fully au fait with that part of the city, and for that purpose to provide for the establishment of a body to be known as the Dublin inner city development authority to oversee that regeneration.
There has been regeneration in Limerick and other places which badly need it but, unfortunately, it takes a long time Funding and commitment are needed as well as inter-agency involvement but, most important, the involvement of the community. The daoine óga, as Deputy O’Sullivan observed, comprise such a significant proportion of the population that they must be brought with us. Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí. They must be brought with us as well as the volunteers and people on the ground.
I recognise that there are many areas of Dublin, particularly in the inner city, that demand immediate attention. We are all aware of the impact of the horrendous gangland feuds that continue to make life a misery for entire communities. They were allowed get far too out of hand. We must be careful in areas such as my own county and that of the Minister of State. Issues relating to drugs and gangs are festering and gaining strength. If they are not dealt with, we will also experience many of these issues.
I am not sure how the gangland issue should be addressed given the recent ban on Garda overtime but perhaps that is a matter for another day. I welcome the new Garda Commissioner and wish him well but the first thing he did was banned overtime. The news reports and spin doctors tell us there is no cut in overtime in Dublin for dealing with these people, and rightly so. They should be followed to the ends of the earth, for 25 hours a day if there were that many hours, and sat on, but we must also think about those who need resources to follow young people who often have connections to these gangs in Dublin. There are certain famous families whose names we all know but we cannot utter their names, like the song “Michael Collins”; while we must respect and nurture young people, these must be rooted out. Yesterday I met a young friend of mine, whose 15 year old has been offered drugs in the form of tablets in her school in Cashel. It is so sad. This is all linked to these gangs, from whom it percolates down to youngsters, people younger than this 15 year old who would offer her those tablets or drugs. It is a lucrative business. It is shocking and it is happening in rural and urban Tipperary.
I raised a similar matter on Leaders' Questions this morning when I referred to a comparative study commissioned by Jobs for Tipp - a new organisation set up to try to something for Tipperary town and west Tipperary of which I am a member - and written by Ms Lisa English. The study compares levels of deprivation in south Tipperary and the north-east inner city of Dublin. The findings are quite startling. I could not believe them. They are truly disturbing. The report indicates that Tipperary east, Tipperary west, Clonmel west and Carrick-on-Suir - which is located quite close to the Minister of State's constituency - all score highest on the Pobal index of deprivation, above some of these places in Dublin. I am not anti-Dublin and i am not trying to take from this Bill. However, we must recognise deprivation wherever it exists, whether it be in urban or rural Tipperary or Dublin's inner city. The report also concludes that the levels of deprivation in the towns of Tipperary, Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir are far in excess of those which obtain in inner city Dublin. That is startling. We have excellent communities and volunteer groups in those towns. In Tipperary town, for example, there is the MooreHaven centre for people with disabilities which employs 130 people. We have a wonderful Tipperary co-operative that has remained small and local and that employs more than 100 people. There is also the Canon Hayes community resource centre and the Knockancrawley resource centre. We have a great community involvement in all of these and the spirit of the late great Canon Hayes lives on.
If a special vehicle such as that to which the Bill refers is to be established, as I informed the Taoiseach earlier, we have community people ready and willing to participate. They are doing the work, filling out application forms and looking after those vulnerable communities and assisting them will all kinds of issues ranging from the cradle to the grave. I asked the Taoiseach to approve one option which I believe would demonstrate a real commitment on the Government's part to County Tipperary. It is similar to what Teachta Lahart is trying to do in his Bill in the context of this city.
Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, consideration can be given to the creation of a strategic development zone in south and west County Tipperary to help tackle deprivation and to attract small-scale job creation in places such as Tipperary town. It is the same as what is to be found in this city. We have to deal with it and we have to take a focused approach. As we know, such zones have been very successful, as an Teachtaí Maureen O'Sullivan and Lahart would know, in places like Cherrywood and the docklands.
I can certainly see the merits of the proposals contained in this Fianna Fáil Bill introduced by Deputy Lahart. We are seeking ways to create structures that will advance our communities and, in particular, those communities which have consistently levels of high deprivation. It is no different from this city. It is alarming to think that, but there is no difference between the part of this city on which Deputy Lahart's Bill focuses and areas in some of those towns in Tipperary.
We have the community infrastructure in place. The Knockonrawley, Canon Hayes and MooreHaven recreation centres in Tipperary town have been in operation for decades. They have shown us the roadmap of how to look after communities, vulnerable people, those with disabilities and individuals who are poorly educated. There is an excellent school system, both at primary and secondary level, in Tipperary town and Carrick-on-Suir. The Carrick-on-Suir Development Association, CoSDA is a wonderful organisation. It is timely that I speaking on this Bill and support this work in Dublin but I also want a smattering - a smithereen - of the money to go to these designated areas. I am referring to designated areas, not the entire county. We are a proud people in Tipperary. We do not all put out our hands and beg. We want bang for our buck. We want a bit of equality.
Deputy Wallace referred to some of what was done wrong by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. These things go on with the big super quangos. We do not want that. We want ownership of these special vehicles by the community and to have bottom-up development and not to be talking of all those agencies. I am referring to the daoine óige, the volunteers in the communities and the development organisations. I am sure those in Dublin are no different from their counterparts in Tipperary. Deputies Maureen O'Sullivan and Lahart will know of them. They are ordinary people trying to better themselves and make their lives and those of their families a little better despite the horrendous pressure they are under from drug gangs, etc.
We know what NAMA is. I am not happy with what it has done. NAMA controls 75% of the available land in the Dublin City Council area. It should not have that control. It should be disposed of at this stage. NAMA should never have been set up, as far as I am concerned. History books will be written about it and there will be investigations into it. People who has properties in Clonmel that were in NAMA now have them back again and they are laughing all the way to the bank. They will be huge question marks over NAMA when the history of the Minister's time in office and that of his predecessors is written. On the night NAMA was established, I stated that it was like a wild animal - a wild deer - being released into the woods and no one would know where it would end up. We still do not know where NAMA is going to end up and there are major questions about it.
The focus must be on setting up what is proposed in the Bill, which I support, and then to consider extending it to other areas - not only Tipperary, although I have focused on the country - and establish specific task forces to deal with the issues. People will help themselves if they get a bit of cabhrú, a small leg up on the ladder.
I will make three points regarding where the debate on this issue stands in order to articulate my deep and continuing support for the communities of the north-east inner city and also to emphasise the reason I believe this Bill represents the wrong approach. For too long, the communities in the north-east inner city did not receive the supports that were needed. In that context, the view was that what could work in certain placed would always work elsewhere. That approach has not worked and it is one to which I am committed and determined to change. Like Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan and my constituency colleague, Deputy Mary Lou McDonald, who spoke earlier, I have a deep sense of privilege in and commitment to representing those citizens and to doing more and doing better on their behalf.
This leads me to my first point, namely, what has happened since the community that I represent was wrecked by a cycle of murder and mayhem. When gathering information for his report, Mr. Kieran Mulvey went through an extensive and non-political consultative process. He then made a set of recommendations and proposed a structure that has been honoured and implemented by the Government. A process was undertaken that led to a particular recommendation that was delivered, which, fundamentally, was specific to the communities of the north inner city and which recognised that their involvement in this work is the only way in which sustainable progress can be made.
I do not need the words or work of others to remind me why we need to make this progress. When I meet schoolchildren and the elderly and see how proud they are of the areas in which they have grown up or are growing up and the fear but also the hope they have about the future, it is a reminder of why we cannot lose sight of what we need to deliver for these communities. We have not yet delivered. The work of the American social thinker and writer, David Brooks, could not be more relevant to the work we are doing there. He states:
It could be that the neighbourhood, not the individual, is the essential unit of social change. If you're trying to improve lives, maybe you have to think about changing many elements of a single neighbourhood, in a systemic way, at a steady pace.
That is my second point. That is what we are working so hard to do.
I draw the House's attention to the progress report for the north-east inner city for 2017. There is a second report on the way for 2018. The value of this report is not what is contained in the main text but, rather, the information in the appendices, which lay out, by policy area, the detailed interventions that are happening, along with the funding that is needed in order to make a difference to the citizens who I am privileged to represent and to respond to their needs in a new way. I could go through all the different points of intervention that are laid down.
I could go through how they are funded and delivered but I have a limited time. However, I will make one point that the most important interventions we can make are the ones that are not always visible. It is what we do in schools, in parishes and in the family home. The breadth of work on this already under way through community involvement and co-ordination from the Dublin north-east inner city task force is happening. I can understand why this might be not good enough for some because invisible change is always the easiest about which to be sceptical. However, one must look at the physical changes under way such as the new primary care centre in Summerhill, the redevelopment of St. Mary's Mansions, Sean McDermott Street, and the significant investment in upgrading the Lourdes day care centre on Lower Sean McDermott Street. Only this week, the new plans for Rutland Street school were shared with the groups and the staff at the school. There is work under way in all the schools in this part of the city. This is physical and visible work. New childcare facilities have been put in place on Oriel Street. This is physical, tangible and real change.
This is happening through a structure that is independent of me as Minister for Finance. It is independently chaired by Michael Stone with community involvement and with all relevant State bodies and agencies represented on it. This is a structure specific to Dublin’s north-east inner city. Nobody should kid themselves if this legislation goes beyond Second Stage. Every Deputy who has a similar area in his or her constituency would come forward with amendments to change the legislation to say that this group should be specific to their area.
Organisations, like Dublin City Council and the new infrastructure body, which have responsibility for the management of lands, would have these powers peeled away from them and put into this new body. The reason I am so concerned about this approach is that we have had it before with the docklands in this constituency. We have had new bodies put in place whose main role over time has become themselves. I do not want to see that happen for this part of Dublin city and a community which I am lucky enough to represent. Even if such a body did not repeat the mistakes similar bodies made for which too many individuals and communities in my constituency have already borne the cost, we may still end up with an organisation whose breadth is so broad that it will have priorities which may stretch well beyond the north-east inner city.
I appreciate the intentions and the good faith of those who brought forward this legislation. It is a source of regret to me, however, that the bipartisan approach we have used to date to support this part of our city could not have been maintained. It is a source of regret to me that those on the north-east inner city task force were not consulted or made aware of this. It is also a regret to me that we did not look at what is honouring a recommendation in the Mulvey report and, based on the work already under way, see how we can improve it further.
We have statutory bodies and many different State agencies already in place in this part of the constituency which I am privileged to represent. The job is how we can integrate them and lead them in such way that does not squeeze the community out. If we are not doing that properly, then that should be the source of scrutiny and debate. Before we go down the route of assuming the answer to this is a new agency, we have many steps to evaluate before we get to that point.
I am optimistic about the progress we can make. We can point to what has been achieved to date and what more we want to achieve. I am committed, as a Deputy and a member of the Government, to ensuring we put in place the resources needed to respond to the needs of the community. We have done this. Next year alone, on top of the funding and support already in place, a further €6.5 million will be made available to the body in question to respond to the needs it has identified. That is the work we are committed to doing. I, for one, as I know will be the case with my other public representative colleagues, remain committed to working with all in our community to ensure the citizens there, young or old, get the chances they deserve and the opportunities in their lives which reflect the resilience, the strength and the positivity of a rich network of communities and families in the Dublin Central constituency.
I thank the Minister for attending. I thought he was overly defensive but I do not want to get into a tit-for-tat with him because I want to focus on the Bill. On consultation, if this Bill goes to Committee Stage, as I hope it will, there are many opportunities for consultation through public representatives. It does not end here and did not end before it came in here. This has emerged from consultation with people who feel excluded from the process.
The Minister was concerned that this is a model which people will want to replicate. One of the reasons I have been enthusiastic about it is that I represent a constituency which is not unlike the Minister’s. However, while most people in Ireland have, at some stage, travelled through the Minister's constituency, few have travelled through parts of west Tallaght or north Clondalkin. I would love to see a model like this where a statutory agency was brought in - not just transplanted - to meet the needs of the people in my constituency. I would love to see a Mulvey-like investigation into areas in my constituency and others.
What is wrong with replicating that? One of the lessons we have learned is the cost of not doing it is significant. The Minister is right to be proud of the work of the former Taoiseach, as well as the personal interest he took in this. That was precisely what it was, namely, a personal interest. The Minister should not underestimate the fact that this is his constituency and that, as Minister for Finance, he controls the Government’s purse strings. What happens when he is gone, however? What happens if his successor does not have as a big an interest in Dublin’s north inner city? That is the fundamental question that the Bill is trying to address. It is trying to ensure that for a period of ten years - not forever - that whoever comes and goes, this body will not be subject to the whims, passions and interests of any particular politician but is put on a statutory basis.
Deputies Maureen O'Sullivan, McDonald, Burton, Bríd Smith and Gino Kenny highlighted the flexibility for what needs to be done with the board. They are the experts and have come through this, particularly Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan. This is not coming from this side of the House exclusively or from one political party. This has arisen from the community.
Everyone keeps talking about the bad old days and the DDDA. While it did some work, it ran into controversy and I cannot, and will not, defend some of the things it did. However, I attended a function recently at which the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, spoke passionately about the great regeneration taking place in another part of his constituency, namely Grangegorman. That is one of Bertie Ahern's great legacies to the city, but no one ever mentions that. People always talk about the stuff that went wrong. Any city would be proud of what is happening in Grangegorman, which was previously a derelict and run-down site. It is backed up by a statutory agency to ensure it achieves its potential and that development would grace any city. It is a spectacular space and it is only getting better. That is what we want to do under this Bill. We want to ensure that everything is driven by a statutory agency.
A number of issues were raised by colleagues and I would be the first to put my hands up and say that there might be some clumsy language in the Bill. However, it is easy to overcome that. One or two Departments may have been omitted, including the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, but all those issues can be rectified as they are not insurmountable. The geographical area mentioned is much larger. Kieran Mulvey did great work but he is gone. Deputy Enda Kenny took a particular interest in it as Taoiseach, but he is gone. Meanwhile, the Minister does not appreciate fully the importance of his role and the power he has as both Minister for Finance and a Deputy for the constituency. I would love to be the Minister for Finance and in a position to back up commitments for west Tallaght by pulling the purse strings.
The anxiety of the community in this case has been expressed by Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan. People want to know what can be done to ensure this is not just a passing phase. They want to avoid a situation where those who have invested a great deal of time and interest in this move on and something else takes precedence. The current Taoiseach is not as committed to this as the previous Taoiseach. That is not a criticism. I can see clearly that the Minister for Finance is committed to it but the current Taoiseach has other items on his agenda. In summary and without rehearsing everything again, the fundamental objective of the Bill is to put regeneration on a statutory footing, broaden the area to ensure people are not excluded and to ensure it is driven for a period of ten years. It not just a matter of economic regeneration but of social, educational and welfare improvements for the benefit of the people of this particular area.